Have you ever prayed for something that didn’t happen? Perhaps you poured out your soul before God, begging him to come through, and your prayers went unanswered? That is not uncommon for Christians to experience.
In an attempt to provide answers for desperate souls, some preachers will tell you that if you “just had enough faith,” God would do whatever you want. Others will teach that if you pray for something and finish your prayer with the statement, “In Jesus’ name,” it will be done! According to them, faith is the key that unlocks all of your dreams.
Unfortunately, people are so often crushed when their loved one isn’t healed, when their business goes bankrupt, or when their prodigal child doesn’t get saved. In the end, was God not faithful? Was the prayer not prayed properly?
In times like these, we need to grasp what the Bible says about praying in accordance with God’s will.
What I Used To Think About Prayer
I used to think that prayer was all about getting God to do my will. This is typical when you grow up believing and obsessing over the prosperity gospel. The fact that we were filthy rich because of the donations of poor and sick people only compounded my belief that our prayers and power worked. After all, just look at all our material blessings!
In my mind, prayer was little more than bossing God around. I would “decree” that He do things and end my decree in Jesus’ name. Naming and claiming whatever I want was the kind guarantee anyone could have too — if they knew how to pray the right way.
But many people did pray the same way, yet they remained in poverty, did not receive their healing, and were not rolling in material blessings. That was the twisted part of the Ponzi scheme that the prosperity gospel built. The guy at the top of the pyramid arrogantly says, “Look at how this works in my life. Give your best offering, and God will do the same for you.”
Well, unless you’re at the top of the pyramid, it doesn’t work.
Does “Delighting in the Lord” Get You What You Want?
If that way of thinking leaves a wake of spiritual destruction, how should we pray according to God’s will? When I first got saved out of the prosperity gospel movement, I was humbled by the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. I began to see that I can’t play God. He’s not a magic genie. I can’t tell Him what to do. I’m the human, the finite servant, who comes and says, “God, what do You want me to do?” My life exists for His glory. He doesn’t exist for mine. Biblically speaking, prayer is not about me getting God to do my will, it’s about God preparing my heart to submit to His.
Prosperity preachers like to quote Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” In a twisted paraphrase, faith healers and prosperity preachers think this passage means: “Give money, have faith, and get excited about God, then He will give you whatever you want.”
But that’s not what that passage means. What the psalmist is telling you is that when you delight yourself in the Lord and live for His glory—as you pour out your heart in devotion to Him—then your desires belong to Him too. When you’re so enthralled with Him and He is everything to you, your affections will be from Him and for Him. He will now put the things in your heart and mind that He wants you to do.
That changes things doesn’t it?
Am I Delighting Myself in the Lord?
That begs the question, “Are you delighting yourself in the Lord? How are you delighted in Him?” The more you are following the revealed will of God, the more you are going to be praying prayers that are in accordance with His will. And when you ask in accordance with His will, He will answer.
Consider the prayers Paul prays in the Bible. You won’t find a great deal of self-indulgence. Paul prays, “Open a door for the gospel.” He prays prayers of thanksgiving, even in times of suffering.
This doesn’t mean we can’t pray for healing or material goods, but Paul models for us how to pray for the eternal, not merely the temporal.
The Humility of “The Will Be Done”
When is the last time you prayed for a gospel door to be opened? When did you last pray, “God, will you help me grow?” How can you more often pray, “God, thank you for the way this trial is growing me”?
God’s answers when we pray according to His will can be humbling. Maybe that’s why we get tempted to avoid such prayers. It’s humbling to want healing, but see God allow suffering. It’s humbling to want more stuff, and see God call us to more sacrifice. It’s humbling to focus on the eternal, and experience God’s loving and corrective call to fix our eyes on eternity.
So, we pray for healing, and we pray for our needs to be met, and we pray for all other good things, knowing that praying “Thy will be done,” always leads us to experience the greatest thing: God’s will.
This article is an edited version of the original conversation between Costi Hinn and Dr. Brian Arnold on the Phoenix Seminary podcast. You can listen to the full interview here.